Contraception myths – What you need to know about the 'pill' and more | Western Cape Government

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Contraception myths – What you need to know about the 'pill' and more

26 September 2022

When it comes to contraceptives, there are many options for you. Contraceptives can give you freedom and peace of mind to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Access to contraceptives allow you to decide if, when and how to start your family, giving you control over your reproductive health, your wellness and future. Good health, in turn, allows you to live your life to the fullest.

Today, many people use contraceptives and can easily access them for free at Western Cape Government Health clinics. However, there are still myths and misconceptions about contraceptive methods. Some people may not use it due to fears of possible side effects and negative beliefs about contraception. To increase public knowledge about the use and benefits of contraceptives, healthcare workers are busting common myths as we mark World Contraception Day this September, with the hopes of empowering members of the public. Healthcare workers understand that using contraception is a highly personal choice and that everyone should be informed to make the best choices for their reproductive health. Western Cape Government Health nurses debunk six common contraceptive myths below to help you make informed decisions for your health and future. 

Contraception myths and facts Myth 1: The contraceptive pill/birth control pill is effective immediately after taking it. Fact: It is important to take you birth control as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Sr Deborah Stander works at the Ravensmead Community Day Centre provides counselling to young men and women on the use of contraceptives. She shares the importance of taking your pill the right way. “For pregnancy prevention, the contraceptive pill needs to be taken every day at the same time. For the suitable family planning method for you, please contact your nearest clinic.” Myth 2: Contraceptives, like IUDs, are responsible for infertility. Fact: Also known as a ‘loop,’ an intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device shaped like a "T" that fits inside your uterus. There are two types of UIDs: copper and hormonal, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg. Sr Bongiswa Mazeke, from the Michael Mapongwana Community Day Centre says it cannot cause infertility. “Contraceptives like IUDs are very effective, and they last for 3-5 years. These contraceptives do not cause infertility. A female can fall pregnant immediately after removing an IUD. After inserting the IUD, it is important for female clients to come for two check-ups, one at 6 weeks and another after 1 year.” Myth 3: Contraception is a woman’s responsibility. Fact: Some women may be afraid to speak to their partners about contraceptive methods. Maylene Reid, Professional Nurse in the Overberg District, says contraception is everyone’s responsibility.  “Women are often scared to speak to their partners about contraceptives, but women and men have an equal responsibility to use contraceptives to protect themselves from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies. If you are male speak to your healthcare provider about medical male circumcision, vasectomies, and the use of condemn to protect yourself and your partner.” Myth 4: You don’t need to use other forms of protection if you’re on the pill. Fact:  Remember, you need to use a condom every time you have sex to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections, as the pill cannot protect you from contracting an STI. This is why “double protection” is important. “Double the protection means double the safety against STIs, including HIV. We encourage dual protection – using condoms while using other contraceptives, like the pill, too – to ensure good reproductive health for you and your partner,” says Sr Roseanne Love, nurse in the Matzikama Sub-District, in the West Coast. Myth 5: I can’t become pregnant while breastfeeding. Fact: It is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. The good news is that you can protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies. Professional Nurse, Sr Judiac Ranape works in the Southern and Western District. Sr Ranape explains why it’s possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding. “It is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding.  When breastfeeding exclusively, it is less likely for a woman to ovulate until she starts to wean the baby from the breast. When breastfeeding is supplemented with formula or solids, even when the period has not returned yet, and there is no contraceptive protection, the woman can fall pregnant. To prevent pregnancy while breastfeeding, it is best to start another form of contraception soon after delivery even if you are breastfeeding.” Myth 6: I can take my morning after pill at any time. Fact: Like the daily oral contraceptiveit’s important to take your emergency pill or morning after pill as advised by your healthcare provider. Sr Tandiswa Kami, the Operational Manager at Gugulethu MOU, says the emergency pill can prevent unwanted pregnancies. “Prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies by using the emergency contraceptive knowns as the ‘morning after pill’. Remember to take it within the 72 hours of having unprotected sexual intercourse. Come and get yours for free at our primary health care (clinic) facilities. Ask one of your healthcare providers where to access the morning after contraceptive.” 

Different types of contraceptives There are many contraceptive options available to you. Whether you’re planning for a family or want to protect your reproductive health, using the correct method of contraception is important. These methods include: Oral contraceptives: Commonly known as "the pill", this must be taken daily, and is available free of charge at clinics and hospitals. It does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Contraceptive injection for women: There are two types: Nur-Isterate, which is given every two months (eight weeks), and DMPA (Depo Provera or Petogen), which is given every three months (12 weeks). This form of contraception does not prevent STIs.

Intrauterine Device (IUD): An IUD is a small device that is put into a women's uterus (womb) by a specially trained health worker. An IUD can prevent pregnancy for a number of years. It does not prevent STIs. If a woman or her partner has multiple sex partners, the IUD should not be the method of first choice unless condoms are also used to protect against STIs.

Condoms: Available free of charge at clinics (female condoms are available at designated clinics). It is the only single method that offers dual protection from both unwanted pregnancy as well as STIs including HIV/AIDS.

Sterilisation: This is a short and simple operation but is a permanent contraceptive method for both males and females. Any person 18 years or older who is capable of consenting may be sterilised at their request. Bookings can be made at the client's local clinic. Sterilisation does not prevent STIs. As with all contraceptive methods, there is a small risk of failure. 

How to access care for you Western Cape Government Health services include education, counselling, and contraception/birth control options to help you decide when or if you want to have children and to protect you against sexually transmitted infections. You can access advice and free contraceptive options by visiting your nearest clinic. Use this link to find a clinic in your area https://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/health/facilities/944 or learn more about contraceptives on our dedicated family planning page: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/site-page/family-planning Western Cape Government Health clinics have improved access for youth, who can skip queues and access youth-friendly services to access contraceptives. Visit your local clinic for support today.